Where the wind blows

Source: press release, 1 December 2021

The Blade Pitch exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to visualise complex concepts such as air movement
The Blade Pitch exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to visualise complex concepts such as air movement (photo: ASC)

An innovative exhibit at Aberdeen Science Centre (ASC) is using leading-edge simulation software to test how changing the pitch of a wind turbine blade in response to wind speed can achieve optimum power generation.

Blade Pitch, set in ASC’s Energy Zone, was designed by exhibition specialist Huttinger who created more than 60 new interactive exhibits as part of ASC’s multi-million-pound renovation. In developing the exhibit, Huttinger worked closely together with CADFEM and Ansys. CADFEM is a leading provider of engineering simulation services and distributor of Ansys simulation technology. Ansys is the world-leading provider of engineering simulation software.

A principal sponsor of the Blade Pitch exhibit, Ansys’ simulation software uses cutting edge science and technology that gives visitors the opportunity to visualise complex concepts such as air movement.

The exhibit uses live simulation which makes it possible to simulate the physical behaviour of a structure such as a blade or turbine within seconds. Engineers around the world use simulation to understand and develop today’s complex products and to help them formulate their decision making.

It is one of a series of exhibits in the Energy Zone which demonstrates how the energy mix is made different types of energy including increasingly important renewable sources such as wind power.

Visitors to the centre can put theory to the test by setting wind speed in the exhibit then adjusting the blade pitch to try and set the propellor rotation at its most effective working point depending on the wind speed they’ve set.

It shows how turbulence is generated, how the wind moves around blades, which forces act on the wing according to the wind flow, and how those forces propel the turbine to a lesser or greater extent depending on its pitch. The software technology uses computer graphic cards with thousands of computing cores to produce calculations within seconds.

David Rodger, CEO of Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) says, “The North-east of Scotland has a long history of being at the heart of the energy sector and with projects such as the European Offshore Wind Development Centre (EOWDC) on our doorstep, this is likely to continue for a long time to come. As we aim to get to net zero, it’s never been more important for young people to learn about the complexities of the energy industry and how our energy is produced. This exhibit brings learning to life and is a fantastic addition to the Aberdeen Science Centre.”

ASC’s GBP 4.7 million redevelopment was made possible by generous support and funding from the Inspiring Science Fund – a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome – with additional funding provided by Opportunity North East (ONE) and Aberdeen City Council.

The project secured a further GBP 1.5 million from funders and sponsors including OPITO, Shell, Equinor, BP, The Robertson Trust, TAQA and CNOOC to deliver quality exhibits and programmes to enhance the overall visitor experience at the venue. Fundraising is ongoing for future programmes and activities to engage visitors in science.

For more information on Aberdeen Science Centre, visit www.aberdeensciencecentre.org.